While pleasant, there was a perceptible cooling in attitudes towards Fleet Foxes when Helplessness Blues appeared earlier this year: the traits that first brought them acclaim just seemed too polite to warrant the same enthusiasm a second time. Still Living is less hotly anticipated, but Ganglians win the newly-invented prize for ‘best second album by bearded outdoorsy Americans with a hankering for harmonies’ hands down by keeping the edges rough, even if its unwieldy length makes it dificult to take in with a single sitting.While the extended duration deadens their impact a mite, individual tracks have a grace and lightness of touch: Jungle’s bouncy Beach Boys gait and Sleep’s electronic flourishes stand out, as does atmospheric lynchpin Bradley, which portions the album in two. Its twelve tracks are more variations on a theme than divergent experiments, but they’ve got a charm that, appropriately enough, gets under the skin.
Dreams Come True is a collaboration between Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear and George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow, and it sounds – hold on to your hats! – like a cross between Grizzly Bear and Twin Shadow. The fusing of their talents may not have produced some alchemic bolt from the blue, but it more than lives up to the high standards set by their respective past pedigree.By combining the intricate ambition of Veckatimest with hints of Lewis’s nostalgic, electronic brooding, Taylor has birthed a mesmeric jewel of a record, rich with glittering textures. Reportedly written and recorded in a just a week and a half, it sounds like the fruits of more prolonged exertion, with pace and sequence expertly judged. Too good to be eclipsed by Taylor’s day job, this is his Atlas Sound, his Mt. Eerie – a counterpoint that drains the epithet ‘side-project’ of any subtle pejorative.
Out 12th September
Shimmering Stars - Violent Hearts (***)
Shimmering Stars arrive to the reverb/Spector/dream-pop party fashionably late, with a record that makes no qualms about lifting hooks from bygone hit parades. Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Wild Nothing are already inside making themselves at home, flicking through the Jesus and Mary Chain vinyl and pouring cocktails, and initially, Violent Hearts doesn’t measure up, a humble wallflower by comparison.First impressions paint it too slavishly indebted to teen idols of the fifties and sixties, with drum-beats borrowed from The Ronettes and harmonies from Del Shannon. But the trio avoid becoming redundant pastiche or, worse, mere genre roughage (the grey bulk that pads the ranks of any popular style) through sheer sincerity. They nail both indie-disco slow-dance and up-tempo rock n roll, with an average track length around the two minute mark – borrowed nostalgia perhaps, but well observed borrowed-nostalgia, chock full of string bends, echoes and melancholy.
Out 5th September